During the opening weekend of the inaugural WTA Citi Open held just outside of Washington, DC in College Park, MD, Alexandra Mueller made a name for herself. She flew through three rounds of qualifying, en route beating the #1 seed 6-1, 6-0, and debuted her talents in her first WTA tour-level main draw.
I had a chance to sit down and chat with the statuesque Pennsylvania-born 23-year-old about her goals, recent doubles’ titles, and influence of social media.
Mueller’s current claim to fame is that she was the winner of the first U.S. Open National Wildcard Playoff Tournament held last year, in which the winner received a direct entry into the Qualifying draw of the U.S. Open. With 372 other women vying for the spot, it took hard work and confidence to get there. Sectionals were held all across the country while nationals took place at Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA. When asked about what she learned from the experience and her run at Stanford, she stated that “it proves to me that I can win a lot of matches under pressure situations. It was a big moment and I was able to play well and come away with the victory.” If she seems to talk like a pro, it’s maybe because she already is. As Mueller was a standout junior doubles player reaching #35 in the world in 2003, and she transitioned to the pro tour shortly thereafter.
By the end of the 2011 Mueller hopes to be in the top 200, and that is certainly an attainable goal. Although she is currently ranked #432 in the world, she is playing at, or better than, her highest singles ranking of #280 back in 2009. With an aggressive and athletic game, she is climbing the ladder steadily. She is currently # 189 on the doubles’ tour following her recent back-to-back titles in Boston and Waterloo, the latter partnering with rising-star Asia Muhammed. And the wins have certainly given her that extra confidence going into the summer hard court season. “Winning matches and being able to close it out, in either singles or doubles, gives me a lot of confidence going forward.” She has been working on her fitness throughout the off-season and spring, and it shows, as she physically dominates on-court dictating points and running her opponents down.
As a touring professional, traveling most weeks of the year, she delves into social media as a way of interacting with fans. With over 2500 friends on Facebook, it’s clear she holds a special spot for her fans. “I’m totally into Facebook and social networking and that’s a problem!” she says as she laughs. “The smartphone was definitely it for me. I like Twitter as well since it’s great to get support, like congratulatory and good luck messages … no matter where you’re getting them from. It feels like someone is pulling for you.”
As I write, Mueller is battling former World #3 Nadia Petrova for a spot in Citi Open’s second round. It’s certainly a historic moment for the young American as she looks to continually improve her game and learn from the sport’s top players. She credits Monica Seles as an inspiration and replicates the champion’s style on- and off-court with a charming personality and a quality game.
Follow Alexandra on twitter: @kentonmueller.
Check out more photos by Neal Trousdale from the Citi Open.